Aurelien Panis switches from Formula V8 3.5 to WTCC with Honda team
|By Jack Cozens||Tuesday, January 31st 2017, 12:27 GMT|
Aurelien Panis has completed a surprise switch from single-seaters to compete in the World Touring Car Championship next season.
Panis, son of 1996 Monaco Grand Prix winner Olivier, finished fifth in his second season in World Series Formula V8 3.5 in 2016 with two victories to his name.
But the Frenchman will this year drive for the Hungarian Zengo Motorsport outfit in the WTCC, racing one of the team's TC1 Honda Civics.
"It is a very strong international championship and a great step in my career," Panis said.
"There are many experienced and successful drivers in the series so it will be a very exciting and tough challenge for me;
"I'm proud to drive for a great team like Zengo Motorsport, which has won races in the past, and I am very honoured to join the Honda Racing Family.
"Everything will be new for me this season and the goal will be to learn and gain experience quickly, in order to be able to fight at the top as soon as possible."
Panis's package will be based around Honda's 2017 chassis and engine.
Zengo fielded two Civics for Ferenc Ficza and Daniel Nagy last season, but struggled with reliability issues in the early part of the season and was only able to run Nagy in five of the 11 events after the late delivery of a second engine.
The outfit has previously entered Hungarian drivers in the championship, and helped Honda factory driver Norbert Michelisz to two independents' trophy titles during a six-year spell.
"We're very pleased to confirm that Aurelien is joining our team for the 2017 WTCC season," said team principal and owner Zoltan Zengo.
"Recruiting a non-Hungarian driver is a new direction for us but it's an exciting one at the same time.
"In Aurelien we have signed a driver with great potential and a successful background in single-seater racing.
"Everything will be new for him but we're good teachers, and we know a different approach will benefit the team and how we work.
"We're confident Aurelien's switch to the WTCC will be rewarding and we can't wait to start working with him."